ANNUAL REPORT 2007
The year under review might be summed up as
"more of the same".
Despite the terms "global warming" and "peak oil"
having entered the popular lexicon, the actions of the NSW government continued to lag decades behind its rhetoric. Government policies repeatedly referred to the need for a modal shift from private cars to transit, but government decisions continued to promote quite the opposite. However, 2007 seemed to mark the watershed wherein the public generally came to understand and accept that building more roads just creates more traffic.
The long-delayed electronic ticket, Tcard, continued to falter, with growing community awareness that the reform of fares policy needed to precede any such ticket revolution.
The inner-suburban M4East motorway proposal was reinstated, now with multiple tentacles, and the roads lobby continued its pressure for the reinstatement of the F6 corridor to motorway status.
The Auditor-General found that public-private partnerships (PPP contracts) entered into by the NSW government were not serving the public interest because the government's negotiating skills could not match those of the private finance sector (March). Sydney's second Transitway, to the North-West, opened in stages from March to October.
Federally, last minute pork-barreling on roads by the prime minister, facing the threat of defeat in the November election, failed to provide funds for urban public transport. There was some money for freight railways.
Performance of the NSW State Government
Premier Iemma declared that he wanted to be remembered as
"The Public Transport Premier".
His subsequent pronouncements seem to have put paid to that. Labor won the March 2007 state election, due at least in part to an inept Opposition but also thanks to Labor's expensive negative advertising campaign and an impressionable, or apathetic, electorate. Transport Minister Watkins' capacity to perform was constrained by his also having to administer the police portfolio.
It was disappointing that Department of Planning's draft Subregional Planning Strategies assumed that Strategic Bus Corridors would entice modal shift from car to bus despite the roads system also being amplified to reduce travel times. There were no serious proposals for new rail infrastructure except to Rouse Hill and to Bringelly. Even the much needed new city line came under threat from what appears to be a hostile Treasury. Nervous politicians were reluctant to embrace a proposal for congestion charging of private vehicles entering the Sydney CBD as a means of reducing traffic congestion.
Members will appreciate the hours spent by our spokesmen in cultivating relationships with the media, and in responding to enquiries, principally from radio and TV. We continue to be encouraged by the large number of supportive editorials appearing in Sydney's leading newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald. On 6 March 2007, the Herald criticised the state government, whose "...standard solution has been bigger and better roads....as soon as the new asphalt has set, there is another traffic jam". APT acknowledges the importance of, even our dependence on, a "free press". It should not be taken for granted. Sometimes it seems that today, only the press has the motivation and the resources to perform the role once exercised by the State Opposition.
We acknowledge the support received from Australia's major industry magazines, Railway Digest and Transit Australia.
During the year APT met regularly with the management of CityRail and Sydney Buses and occasionally with other transport planners and providers including the private bus industry, and the State Opposition. We made several submissions to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), and to other bodies, and issued innumerable press releases, most of which are recorded on our website
For the first time, the website records details of the whole year's weekly meetings, and now invites public comment on our guest page.
MAJOR EVENTS OF THE YEAR
The December signing of Australia's biggest public-private partnership (PPP) contract, for new trains, was really little more than normal asset replacement. New Hunter railcars enabled the retirement of the very old 620/720 class carriages. RailCorp "Clearways" programme progressed slowly. Overcrowding on peak-period trains was an ongoing problem. Train breakdowns on the Harbour Bridge just prior to the state election damaged public confidence in the rail system. Personal security continued to be a concern for passengers. Grand plans for a Penrith to City
"Fast Rail", and a Malabar to West Ryde "Metro", came and went.
The Ministry of Transport's continuing program of annual reviews in the bus "Contract Regions" generally provided better services for customers. State Transit's bus services improved, with new vehicles and faster trips offered by the rapidly expanding Pre Pay (no-cash-to-driver) services. APT had campaigned for cashless buses since at least mid 2005. The "Strategic bus corridors" were further developed. The North West bus Transitway opened just prior to the election, but with almost no priority over general traffic.
Five high-capacity buses were ordered for a proposed Kensington - City - Leichhardt route.
Fatal collisions marred Sydney Ferries Corporation's performance. An Inquiry, headed by Bret Walker, SC, produced a scathing report on the SFC. SFC's tourist-oriented Harbour Cruises were discontinued from March.
The (tolled) Lane Cove Tunnel opened. Roads Minister Roozendaal delayed the closure of lanes on the parallel (free) Epping Road to avoid motorists' anger, paying the tunnel operator $25 million in compensation, which he described as an "investment".
A plan to widen the Spit Bridge was dumped. A proposed M4East motorway between Strathfield and the city re-appeared on the government's agenda. The Roads & Traffic Authority's bus-priority planner, in an address to Engineers Australia, said RTA policy only tolerates bus priority if it does not impact on the flow of general traffic.
The Epping-Chatswood railway is due to open in mid 2008.
Sydney's new suburban trains are to enter service in 2010.
A planned bus-rail interchange adjacent to Town Hall station may require more bus passengers to change vehicles near the end of their journey in order to reach their final destination.